Ahava Leibtag: Use the Secrets of Content Strategy to Turbocharge Your Content Marketing

Ahava Leibtag , Principal at Aha Media Group, challenges us to channel our inner Steve Jobs and “focus on the pocket.”

Challenges The Content World’s Facing

  • Challenge #1: Is quality content out there?
    • As the web has grown and everyone can be a publisher, demands on content professionals have grown dramatically
    • Tons of content out there now; not all of it is useful, usable
  • Challenge #2: Is the content we’re producing strategic?
    • Oreo’s infamous Superbowl tweet
      • Did it actually contribute to sales?
    • Arby’s and Pharrel’s hat
      • Cute, clever – but did it do anything?
  • Challenge #3: Making sense of, and using, traditional marketing tools

Content Strategy’s Core Model

Old (incomplete):

  1. Align with business objectives
  2. Support users in accomplishing tasks


  1. Align with business objectives
  2. Support users in accomplishing tasks
  3. Find the why

A Lesson from Apple and Steve Jobs

  • In introducing the iPod, didn’t go “feature dumping” on gigabytes and sleek design
  • “1,000 songs in your pocket”
    • Steve Jobs taps into the benefits to you

The Golden Circle

  • Simon Sinek – Start with Why
  • Why surronded by how surrounded by what
  • Emotional doorway into making our content great

3 Parts of the Human Brain

  • Reptilian: body temp, breathing, etc.
  • Midbrain and hindbrain: limbic system, decision making, drives human behavior, no capacity for language
  • Neocortex: rational and analytics, language center

The Rally Cry

  • Build from the inside out and create content that move people
  • Start with the why, the emotion

Inspiration Marketing

  • “Financial services for the rest of us”
    • Huh? What does that mean?
  • Carbonite: “Pursue your passion. We’ll protect it.”
    • Not leading with features, starting with an emotional hook
  • Time: “Help us tell stories that make a difference”
  • Use content to guide people through a decision
    1. Need
    2. Awareness
    3. Engagement
    4. Decision
  • Unconscious incompetence <–> consicous incompetence <–> conscious competence <–> unconscious competence

Content Strategy

3 Parts of Content Strategy

  1. External messaging: answer the 5 essential questions
    1. To whom are you talking?
    2. Who are you?
    3. What are you trying to say?
    4. How do you say it?
    5. Where and when do you say it?
  2. Internal workflow: how do we create a repeatable, sustainable content lifecycle?
    • Plan
    • Create
    • Publish
    • Distribute
    • Analyze
    • Govern
  3. Technological delivery of content: how do we control display and delivery of content?
    • XML
    • DITA
    • Metadata
    • Structured content
    • Adaptive content
    • Content modeling

Editorial Toolkit

  1. To whom are you speaking
    • Personas
      • Starbucks uses data to build their personas
      • Not interested in 24 YO in Manhattan – where do people go? why?
    • User journey maps
    • Amazon leaves empty chair in meetings to represent the customer
  2. Who are you?
    • Brand pillars
      • Brands have 4
        • Are they the 4 you want?
        • Evaluate 4 current identity pillars and determine what you want your future identity pillars to be
  3. What are you trying to say?
    • Messaging architecture
      • MA shows current content pillars, future content pillars, articulation statement, and messaging
      • Articulate how you will move from current to future pillar
      • Messaging: without facts, content is flabby
  4. How do you say it?
    • Voice and tone
    • Example: Nordstrom Rack
      • Dressing room hooks
        • Love it.
        • Um, not sure.
        • Notice: there’s no “No way in hell” option. (They want you to walk out with something!)
      • “Don’t steal. It’s bad karma. Plus, shoplifters will be prosecuted.”
  5. Where and when do you say it?
    • Editorial calendar

Defining Content Marketing

  • Content marketing builds relationships
  • Content strategy builds the conversations that build those relationships

Goals of Content Marketing

  1. Attract
  2. Acquire
  3. Engage or connect
  4. Drive profitable action
    • Sales happen when you’ve earned someone’s trust

The Why

Find the why and shout it from the rooftops

  • Caterpillar – Jenga Trial
  • Phillips – Explore lighting by room tool
  • DocuSign  landing page – taking the pain out of paperwork
  • Farmers Insurance – interactive tool to find out how to protect your home (e.g., winter weather checklist)
  • Facebook employee handbook (red book) – “If we don’t create the thing that kills Facebook, someone else will.”

Our Role

Teach people. Guide them.

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